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The kindness of staff is what keeps the NHS going

The kindness of staff is what keeps the NHS going

As general practice staff await their 6% pay uplift, Dr Zoe Rog reflects on the goodwill of her colleagues, who keep the health service going for the sake of patients

The health centre where I work is only 6.5 miles from the house I grew up in, but it felt worlds away when I started there as a GP. You see, the area where I work is in the 10% most deprived areas in the country, whereas my family home was in the 10% least deprived.

One of the first stories I heard from a patient there was of the unthinkable childhood trauma he had suffered, followed by him finding a family member who had died by suicide in his childhood home. He had become addicted to alcohol while trying to bury the terrible memories and compensate for his feelings of failure because he had never learned to read and write. I listened and made suggestions about referring him to the community alcohol team, and for talking therapy, and perhaps finding an adult literacy class so that he could get the right help and maybe eventually get a job. As the tears spilled down his cheeks, he looked hopelessly at the floor and said, ‘It all sounds so easy when you say it like that.’

I had never felt more useless. None of it was easy. What was my relevance here, with my medical degree, prescription pad and shiny new bag bought for me by my incredibly proud and supportive family?

I have heard many such stories since, and the gradual erosion of social care and funding for community facilities has not made any of it easier. I learned many things from the wise GP partners who preceded me, but I think one of the most valuable was to surround myself with excellent colleagues – my biggest motivator to keep going to work and enjoying what I do is the incredible team with whom I work:

The dependable healthcare assistants, one of whom saw a patient several days running after the end of her morning clinics to wet comb head lice out of her hair because we had tried everything else to no avail.

The wonderful social care in practice worker who took a patient’s washing home and returned it clean the next day when she discovered her living in a dilapidated house with a broken washing machine.

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The lovely pharmacist who collected medication from the chemist and dropped it off to a patient on her way home because they had no one else to do it for them.

The amazing advanced nurse practitioner who found a bedbound patient’s supermarket delivery spoiling in their hallway on a hot day and unpacked it into their fridge and freezer.

The compassionate receptionists who made a cup of tea for a patient suddenly homeless and on the brink of suicide, and gave him food from their own lunchboxes.

The resourceful medical secretary who discovered this and stayed late to compose and type a letter of support persuasive enough for the council to give him emergency accommodation.

All the staff go the extra mile on top of an already enormous workload, not because we ask them to do it, but because they want to do the best they can for our patients. And this provides the inspiration for us to not only take care of the patients, but also to look after each other.

The Government thinks that general practice staff are worth a 6% pay uplift, and that GP partners are worth nothing. The staff are almost all the NHS has left, and I think they are worth their weight in gold.

Dr Zoe Rog is a GP in Runcorn, Cheshire